fingers along the head of each newly hammered nail, placing my hand above the one that stands out most. The last one I’d seen between Bishop’s teeth.
It’s golden, where the others are silver—loose, where the others feel tight. I push on it with one reddened finger and realize that the odd little nail hasn’t been hammered in at all.
It’s been strategically placed at the window jamb.
It’s as clear as day to me now: The hole in the frame was there before the nail ever went in.
That’s why it was so easy for Bishop to pound in.
My heart beating hard, my hands itching, I dig my fingernails into the wood around the nail, pulling.
A twist to the right, a yank to the left, and the nail is out.
And so is the frame.
The top right of the window frame swings downward, exposing the window’s glass, and with one tiny push, the swinging casement window swivels outward, letting in a breeze that feels like a sigh of relief.
Surprisingly cool, crystal clear air fills my lungs and I reach for the window, swinging it further so that the entire window lies open, baring me to the cobble-stoned street.
I brace my hands on the kitchen counter, preparing to lift a leg to climb out… but nerves and adrenaline—thick and coursing through my constricted veins—drag me back down, placing me on my feet where I land harshly, my fingers shaking, my legs feeling weak at the knees.
Because I am scared. I am scared shitless .
Because I don’t know what’s out there, I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know who I am, so if anyone were to ask, I wouldn’t know just what to tell them.
And what if Bishop catches me…?
The thought of my supposed husband staring at me with those earthy-green eyes—half-hazelnut, half-flame —puts an extra chill down my spine, making me shiver, making the cool breeze from outside feel even cooler.
But I have no choice.
I take a deep breath… and launch myself onto the kitchen counter, crouching so that I can crawl up and into the opened window where I perch for no more than a few seconds.
And then I jump.
I jump down onto the street, landing awkwardly on the soles of my sandals.
Tendrils swept, skirt up, I push at flying strands of hair and fabric, reaching up to close the window with one free hand as the other works tirelessly to neaten my appearance.
I probably look like an escaped convict.
I certainly feel like one.
With the window closed and the sounds of the markets one street over, I straighten my posture, faking a confidence that I don’t even feel.
A stroll turns into a power-walk. A power-walk turns into a trot, and before I know it, I am running, sprinting towards the end of the block where I can see people— actual fucking people —intermittently crossing the street.
I run to them.
For help…? For familiarity? For shits and giggles ? I don’t know…
I just do.
And when I finally reach the end of the row, passing the final house on the corner of Bishop’s block, the noises from the markets turn deafening.
What was a simple hum to me while indoors is like a roar up close and personal.
I haven’t just walked into the market…
I’ve stumbled into last night’s nightmare.
THE CAGED BIRD SINGS AGAIN
The tiny pencil in my hand almost snaps in half.
I write the note carefully, marveling at how neat my own handwriting is despite how incredibly drunk I’m getting. I try to return the small utensil to Amelie, the pretty, brown-haired waitress who’s given it to me.
But like everything else she’s given me in the last fifty-five minutes, she won’t take it back. She smiles as I attempt to slide it back in her hand across the table in this quaint French cafe.
She speaks to me in a delicately beautiful French accent.
“Amelie, I can’t take another thing from you,” I almost slur.
“Actually… yes, you can.” Her voice reminds me of butterfly wings, floating to land on top of a pretty rose.
Pretty. Soft. Delicate.
Just like her
Andria Large, M.D. Saperstein